I feel like most of us, especially eventers, have probably seen what went down on Eventing Nation yesterday right? If not, here ya go. Read all the comments too, they’re important. See both sides. It’s only fair.
Eventing Nation broaching the topic of the possibly offensive event name culminated in the property owner feeling personally attacked (he felt as if he was being called racist), terminating the lease with the organizing group, and essentially cancelling the sport of eventing at his facility indefinitely. That termination happened a couple days before EN published their article, explaining what had gone down and why they had approached the topic of changing the event name in the first place. The cancellation of future Plantation Field events is a huge loss for the sport, and a situation where there really are no winners.
I saw a lot of emotional people and knee-jerk reactions after this came to light, which is understandable. I get that. And while I (shockingly, I’m sure) have so much to say about this I could probably write a novel, instead I mostly wanted to shine a light on a few things that other people have had to say. Opinions that are significantly more important and relevant than my own. Thoughts and feelings that we shouldn’t be ignoring, and that shouldn’t get lost in the other thousands of comments. Before we speak, we have to listen.
“But in my experience, when people won’t welcome feedback about the language they use that impacts people of color, I can rest assure they wouldn’t welcome me either.”. Let that sink in for a second.
“The word plantation makes me and many other poc uncomfortable”
I also suggest reading this article, if you’d truly like to understand the issue a bit more and why it’s so extremely relevant at this particular moment in history:
I also ask you to consider a few points regarding EN in particular, who is shouldering the entirety of the blame from many:
- EN stated months ago that they were dedicated to the issues of diversity and inclusivity in eventing. They’ve written and published plenty about it. The cause and their stance on it shouldn’t be a surprise.
- As a media outlet, they do have the benefit of the power of the press, theirs to wield as they so choose. There is plenty of precedent for this. They also have the added responsibility of knowing just how much their own words matter, particularly within the current movement.
- It was only a matter of time before Plantation Field and the event organizers were confronted with this question and these pressures, regardless of the source. EN may have been the first, but they won’t be the last. Is anyone who questions it going to get “cancelled”?
- EN can only use their voice to bring awareness to the issue, they cannot control the reaction or the outcome.
It’s also clear that many many people who originally declared themselves “allies” need to understand what allyship really means and that it isn’t just performative. I’m discouraged to see so many be so quick to jump ship when it meant that they too actually had to pay the piper in some way. Allyship doesn’t just stop at words. Losing something for standing up for what you think is right… it sucks. But I have to ask: are we not in this situation now both as a society and as a sport because we’ve spent too long standing idly by, unwilling to rock the boat, unwilling to ask the hard questions, unwilling to address the elephant in the room, and unwilling to stand firm, have courage, and actually risk losing something ourselves? It’s one thing to “say”… there is little risk in that. It’s another thing to “do”, especially when you yourself have a lot on the line.
For those who keep posting the dictionary definition of a plantation, as if that somehow proves it isn’t racist, I have to ask you this: how would you feel if there was an event called Swastika Farm Horse Trials? Before you roll your eyes, hear me out. A swastika is another thing that technically does not have a racist meaning by definition, but the symbolism within a certain group is undeniable. Here’s the dictionary definition of swastika:
Okay, so now imagine that the word “plantation” created the same feelings in you that the word “swastika” does (or at least should, for god’s sake). Seriously. Set your emotion and defensiveness and personal perspective aside and imagine it, just for a second. Imagine that every time you saw the word, or rolled through those gates, you got that visceral reaction of discomfort, sadness, subjugation, and not feeling welcome or wanted. If a group of people is standing in front of us telling us how something makes them feel, it’s not up to us to tell them that they shouldn’t feel that way, or to throw out a dictionary definition. It’s up to us to listen and try to understand.
My hope is that once emotions settle and some perspective is gained, the “powers that be” that are involved in putting on this event can sit down together (along with some of our BIPOC community) and have a meaningful conversation, and reach a suitable resolution for everyone. Whether you agree with it or not, whether you approve of how it was done or not (which no one knows the exact details save for a very few people, so how bout we ease up on the “I don’t have a problem with what they were trying to do but I don’t agree with how it was done” thing), EN has done a bold, brave thing, one that has gained them few friends and many enemies. They’ve done exactly what they promised to do, even though it was certainly the hard thing and not the easy one. But I know one thing for sure: if we really want change, if we truly DO want to be inclusive in our sport, we have to stand for something. That means stand for it in the storm, too, not just in fair weather. And yes, when you take the risk to truly, relentlessly, unwaveringly stand for something, you sometimes risk losing something else in the process too.